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Xaus out duels Hodgson to complete Imola sweep
28 September 2003
Ruben Xaus kept his cool as he claimed win number six of the season and his second of the day at Imola, stalking Neil Hodgson relentlessly until lap 19 of 21 and then forcing the 2003 World Champ into a penultimate lap mistake.
With the two factory Fila Ducati's once again the class of the field, race two simmered rather than boiled as the first encounter did until Xaus made his move heading into the Tamburello chicane three laps from home.
As the lanky Spaniard tried to push away from Hodgson, the Englishman suffered a major twitch entering Tosa for the penultimate time and went straight through the gravel trap and down to the escape road. With no damage to his bike though Hodgson was able to return to action, albeit almost half a minute down on the leader.
Xaus' sixth win from the last ten races further enhanced his chances of a factory ride with Ducati next year, although it seems more than likely that it won't be in the World Championship, while Regis Laconi's second place effort put him in pole position to secure third place in the overall driver's standings.
The Frenchman had to give best to HM Plant's James Toseland, his main rival for third in the points table, until the young Brit crashed heavily at Tamburello on lap 16, thankfully without injury.
Moving up to the final step on the podium thanks to the misfortunes of Hodgson and Toseland was Suzuki's Gregorio Lavilla, salvaging a decent result from a troublesome weekend around the bumpy 3.04-mile Imola circuit while Hodgson recovered to fourth, passing Chris Walker on the very last lap.
Sixth, almost a full minute behind Xaus, was Italian Lucio Pedercini who just held off Troy Corser with Mauro Sanchini, Juan Borja and David Garcia rounding out the top ten.
James Haydon was out of luck once again on the second Foggy Petronas machine and retired with engine problems after just five laps while DFX Racing's lead rider Steve Martin was out after just one lap with a problem on his Pirelli-shod Ducati. Frankie Chili didn't show the same kind of speed that carried him from last to fifth in race one and he retired from seventh place with engine problems on lap 12.
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